J’onn J’onzz, commonly known by his more menacing name, Martian Manhunter, has been a figure in the DC universe as far back as the 1950s. He made his first appearance in Detective Comics #225 and since then has fought alongside other famous DC powerhouses such as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Still, despite his longevity, Martian Manhunter is relatively unknown to those unfamiliar with the DC Universe.
Last year, the CBS (soon to be CW) series Supergirl delighted fans of Martian Manhunter by bringing him to live-action television. In the show, he exhibits powers similar to Supergirl, such as super strength and flight, but also has a few unique tricks, such as shape shifting. As far as the comics are concerned, this only scratches the surface of what J’onzz's true capabilities.
His collection of diverse abilities actually makes him one of the most powerful superheroes in the DC Universe. His range of abilities are so formidable even Superman has called him, “...the most powerful being on the face of the Earth.” So here are 15 powers of Martian Manhunter that explain why some call him “The Swiss Army Knife of Superheroes"!
Like a green Uri Geller on steroids, J’onn has the ability to move things with his mind. This comes with a wide range of uses if you’re creative enough, and luckily this particular martian is. Aside from throwing objects through the air like a mental slingshot, J’onn can levitate his flightless team members into the air as well as mentally latch on to larger flying objects like a tractor beam. In some instances, he’s even been known to stop bullets mid-flight!
Telekinesis is also the main means by which Martian Manhunter is able to fly. By focusing his mind on his environments, he is able to manipulate subatomic particles known as gravitons as well as the magnetic fields around him. This allows him to propel himself through the air and beyond. This ability can produce enough thrust to allow Martian Manhunter to easily break through Earth’s gravitational pull and out into space.
14 Super Speed
The question as to who’s faster, the Flash or Superman, has been asked by fan and comic creators alike. It has been addressed in numerous DC titles, with both of them claiming victory depending which comic you’re reading. Last season’s episode of Supergirl entitled "World’s Finest" attempted to recreate this classic match-up by pitting The Scarlet Speedster against Supergirl in a thrilling race for the title of Earth’s fastest.
Maybe the two of them should have invited J’onn J’onzz to join in on the fun as well.
Although Martian Manhunter is not a character whose name has been synonymous with speed, it probably should be. Assuming flight isn’t against the rules, J’onzz can keep up pretty well with some of the fastest in the DC universe. Using the same control over gravitons and magnetic forces he uses to fly, Manhunter can reach speeds pretty close to Superman and the Flash. That's impressive for someone who doesn’t have the Speed Force on his side!
13 He’s Virtually Invulnerable
It’s safe to say that if you’re going to choose a life of protecting the innocent and defending the Earth from a slew of criminal masterminds and jacked-up supervillains, you’ll want to make sure you’re pretty durable. The ability to be resistant to all manner of bullets, lasers, missiles and explosions is a skill many heavy-hitters like Wonder Woman and Superman possess. Even purely human characters like Batman find a way to deal with everyday dangers by covering themselves in high-tech body armor.
Martian Manhunter possesses a biomorphic structure. It’s the same structure that allows his body to morph at will, giving him his shapeshifting powers. One of the benefits of this structure is that it allows him to absorb kinetic energy, making him resilient to bullets and shrapnel. Also, his ability to control his body on a molecular level allows him to increase his density. At this stage, he becomes denser than a block of steel making him nearly invulnerable to any damage. Unfortunately, increasing his density to this level requires the utmost concentration.
Finally, Manhunter’s alien physiology makes him immune to toxins and diseases of Earth, unlike those sorry excuses for Martians from War of the Worlds.
12 Super Breath
Another perk of possessing a biomorphic structure is the ability to not only change the outward appearance, but the inside as well. Those born on the fifth planet from the sun all have the ability to rearrange the composition of their organs to perform a number of incredible feats.
In the past, Martian Manhunter has been able to change the chemistry of his lungs to suit him to whatever environment he sees fit. He commonly employs this technique to fly through the vacuum of space without having the air sucked right out of him. At other times, he has used this ability to adapt to the hostile environments of foreign, unexplored worlds.
But that’s not all. J’onn can also rearrange the composition of his lungs to retain huge amounts of air. Like a bellow filled with a hurricane, J’onn's lungs can produce strong gusts of wind, similar to Superman.
Sometimes it pays to be a copycat.
11 Heat Vision
Okay, is there anything Superman can do that Martian Manhunter can’t? For a character who many complain is too god-like, he sure seems to have some competition from the planet next door to Earth. It’s no wonder in that the New 52 Martian Manhunter was commissioned by the government to join a state-run Justice League as a counter to Superman and his own independent Justice League.
Just like Superman, J’onn can shoot beams of energy from his eyes. These blasts of energy seem to be of comparable strength to Superman’s own heat vision. J’onn’s energy blasts have been shown to do damage to the likes of DC powerhouses Superman and Black Adam. Furthermore, J’onn has once used this ability to sever his own arm.
In the comics, the blasts have been able to create explosions as well as start fires, which might be a bit dangerous for J’onn, considering fire is his only weakness!
Part of having Green Martian physiology means Martian Manhunter has complete control over his body on a molecular level. With this ability, he can tweak the traits of the cells in his body to react to his environment in a number of ways. This comes with a wide variety of benefits that prove to be a great asset in the heat of battle, or even when he's simply trying to avoid conflict.
J’onn is able to alter the biopolymers within his body, altering them so light is unable to reflect off them anymore. This renders him completely invisible to regular folks who can only see in the visible spectrum, but that’s not all. With enough control, Martian Manhunter can alter those polymers further, making him invisible on multiple different spectrums such as infrared and ultraviolet. Sorry, Supes, but you can take that x-ray vision elsewhere.
And speaking of different spectrums…
9 He Can See Across the Electromagnetic Spectrum
Virtually everyone is familiar with Superman’s ability to see through solid objects with his x-ray vision. His only limitation is the ability to see through lead, a point that is creepily touched upon in the Richard Donner film when Lois asks Superman what color her underwear are. (Really, she couldn’t just ask him what color her sheets were?) Clark’s ability to see through solid objects is certainly impressive, but it doesn’t come close to the type of ocular control Martian Manhunter has.
Martian Manhunter has the ability to see across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, an ability DC creators cleverly refer to as “Martian Vision”. While this includes Superman’s signature X-ray vision, it also includes other wavelengths such as infrared, ultraviolet, and microwaves, which makes you wonder what kind of a light show a Hot Pocket produces. Whether J’onn cycles through the spectrum like The Predator or can see it all at once is unknown, but needless to say, don’t expect to beat him in a game of hide-and-seek.
8 He Can Phase Through Solid Objects
Much the same way he can make his body more dense on a molecular level, Martian Manhunter can make himself less dense. By doing this, he can phase right through solid objects.
In last season’s episode of Supergirl entitled "Childish Things", we witness J’onn, disguised as Lex Luthor-wannabe Maxwell Lord, phase through a security door in Lord Technologies. But it doesn’t stop there! When he doesn’t feel like brushing off bullets like they were Nerf darts, he has been known to phase through physical attacks completely with ease. He’s even been known to phase through Aquaman’s trident like it wasn’t even there. As if Aquaman didn’t already have a bad enough reputation.
In rare instances, Manhunter has used his phasing abilities with far more deadly results. When the situation calls for it, he can be particularly lethal, by phasing his arms right through an attacker and tearing them apart from the inside.
7 He Has a Healing Factor That Can Put Wolverine’s To Shame
In the event that someone tough enough does manage to harm Martian Manhunter, his ability to recover from damage is second to none. Those that manage to distract him for long enough to get a shot in have found that anything short of killing him instantly won't keep him out of the fight for long. Stab him, shoot him, blow him up, it matters not; what would be considered a lethal blow to anyone else, J’onn manages to bounce back from with ease.
Short from being disintegrated completely, J’onn has shown the ability to regenerate from very little biological matter. In Martian Manhunter Vol. 2 #8, nothing was left of Martian Manhunter but his severed hand on a table. From that piece alone he was able to regenerate completely. Martian Manhunter has also been known to regenerate in the event of his decapitation, spawning to full form from just his severed noggin.
6 He Can Grow and Shrink like Ant-Man
J’onn J’onzz has taken on many forms. In the comics he took the identity of coincidently-named detective, John Jones. In Supergirl he takes on the identity of DEO Chief Hank Henshaw. In fact, the form he’s most commonly seen in is actually not his true form, but a human-friendly version. It’s no question that Martian Manhunter’s shapeshifting abilities are top notch, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Beyond being able to change his likeness, he is also able to change his size similar to that of Marvel hero Ant-Man. But unlike Scott Lang, he doesn’t require Pym Particles to do so. Part of his Green Martian physiology allows J’onn to grow and shrink at will. In the past, he has been known to grow to the size of a building and even take on monstrous forms like a dragon. In contrast, he can shrink down to incredibly small sizes, like that of a common housefly.
5 He Possesses Nine Senses
Growing up, you were probably told humans have five senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. Well, turns out science now says you can have anywhere between 14 and 21! With that in mind, you might think Martian Manhunter’s nine senses don’t seem that impressive, but it’s probably safe to say that his creators were still going by the old five sense model.
So, what are these extra four senses? Well, it’s hard to say for certain. Few storytellers of the DC canon have taken the time to go into specifics as to what they could be. But that doesn’t mean we can’t speculate. Certainly reading someone’s mind could be considered a sixth sense, right? Can he feel the objects he moves with his mind? Who knows?
One popular fan theory is that one of his nine senses explains why the earliest iterations of Martian Manhunter exhibited signs of precognition.
The mental powers of Martian Manhunter are widely known and feared among those in the DC universe. In Green Lantern (Volume 3) #44, the Flash makes note of this, saying, “He's the strongest telepath on the planet.” J’onn’s powers of telepathy allow him to perform a myriad of tricks to control and confuse his enemies. He can read just about any mind on the planet as well as their subconscious. He can also quickly scan the minds of every single person on the planet at once if he needs to.
In addition, J’onn has the ability to control and manipulate minds. In Supergirl, he’s been shown erasing the minds of those who’ve discovered his identity. He can also force people to obey his command or even possess them like a ghost. This has its limits on the insane, as the chaos in their minds makes them hard to control.
In rare instances, Manhunter can also launch a deadly, telepathic assault on a person’s mind, putting them into a comatose state.
Martian Manhunter’s telepathic abilities have also proved vital to his teammates as well. He’s able to create a telepathic link with one or more people, even across long distances. This allows J’onn to coordinate team actions without giving away his battle plan. He can also use this ability to communicate with other lifeforms who speak a different language or lack the ability of speech altogether.
3 Detective Skills That Rival Batman’s
Although the name Martian Manhunter seems frightening, the word “Manhunter” actually refers to the fact that J’onn is an expert detective. Before revealing himself, J’onn took the secret identity of John Jones, a detective from Middleton, USA. Despite his alter ego being a clever disguise, it actually kind of reveals more about him, exposing his love for a good old mystery as well as for stopping crime at any cost.
Like Bruce Wayne, J’onn is incredibly intelligent and is often ten steps ahead of the competition. In the past, he has matched wits with some of DC’s most clever villains. In Justice League of America #177, he was forced to play cosmic chess with alien mastermind Despero for the fate of the other Justice Leaguers.
In the comics, Martian Manhunter is feared by the criminal underworld for his dedication to law and order. This is probably why in Justice #1 Batman wrote of J’onn J’onzz, "in many ways, Martian Manhunter is like an amalgam of Superman and the Dark Knight himself".
2 Incredible Stamina
If some crafty super villain is planning on pulling a rope-a-dope on the Martian Manhunter, they’re going to want to rethink that strategy.
Martian Manhunter comes stocked with an almost inexhaustible amount of energy and endurance, a natural trait among the Green Martian race. As a result, he can fight for vast amounts of time without breaking even the slightest sweat or showing any signs of wearing out.
Although the full extent of his endurance hasn’t been fully tested, J’onn has been seen powering through the harshest of conditions without the need to rest or sleep. Even over great distances of space travel, Martian Manhunter can seemingly traverse the universe without the need of air. Despite his insatiable desire to consume his favorite brand of cookie, Chocos, he can go for extended amounts of time without the need of food or water. It’s no wonder he’s able to keep so trim!
1 He Can Create Matrix-like Illusions
One other benefit of being able to enter minds is J’onn’s ability to make others see vivid illusions to confuse and create chaos on the battlefield. On numerous occasions, Martian Manhunter has projected visions into the minds of others, as a means of distraction, or in some cases, to cause complete mental breakdowns. He’s managed to perform this feat on a number of DC characters, including those also known for their amazing mental abilities, such as Gorilla Grodd.
But one of Martian Manhunter’s most powerful telepathic skills is the ability to create an illusion within someone’s mind that seems as real than anything encountered in reality. Known as the Mayavana, the ability is less a psychic onslaught and more of a benevolent gift. Prized among the Martians as the ultimate offering one Martian can bestow upon someone, it can grant anyone’s deepest wish, allowing them to experience that which they desire the most. The mental stress is so great on the Martian performing the Mayavana that it can only be used once in their lifetime.
Although the Mayavana is often reserved for that one person a Martian loves the most, J’onn was forced to use it on Despero, who was threatening to destroy the entire Justice League. By making Despero believe he had finally destroyed Earth’s mightiest heroes, he reverted back to an embryonic form, thus saving the Justice League from utter destruction.
You can see more of Martian Manhunter when Supergirl returns, this time on The CW, on Oct, 10th!